Arts & Entertainment

From left, Lorne Golub, Joseph Scaduto, Francis Johnson, Ying Gu, Hsi-Ming Lee and Maria Ryan. Photo courtesy of Stony Brook Medicine

By Daniel Dunaief

You might not be able to teach an old dog new tricks for a variety of reasons, including that your old dog might be suffering from periodontal disease. An inflammatory condition of the mouth that affects about 80 percent of dogs by the age of three, periodontal disease often starts out as gingivitis, a swelling or reddening of the gums, and then proceeds to affect the soft and hard tissues that support teeth.

Scientists and dentists at Stony Brook have developed a new treatment for periodontal disease for dogs, and, they hope, eventually for humans. The National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research, a unit of the National Institutes of Health, recently awarded Stony Brook University’s School of Dental Medicine and Traverse Biosciences Inc., a Long Island research company, a $1.3 million award to continue to evaluate the preclinical safety and effectiveness of TRB-NO224 to treat periodontal disease.

“The grant was approved for funding because a panel of nationally prominent dental and medical scientists agreed that our grant proposal, and our qualifications and academic records were exemplary,” Lorne Golub, a distinguished professor in the Department of Oral Biology and Pathology explained in an email. Golub, who holds 55 patents and developed Periostat and Oracea, will lead the research, along with Ying Gu, an associate professor in the Department of General Dentistry at SBU.

While periodontal disease affects dogs, it is also widely prevalent among humans, with Golub calling it the “most common chronic inflammatory disease known to mankind.” Indeed, developing effective treatments is important not only for oral health, but it has implications for other conditions that are complicated or exacerbated by the collagenase enzyme prevalent in periodontal disease.

“Some studies indicate that chronic periodontitis can increase the risk for pancreatic cancer, head and neck cancer, cardiovascular disease and others,” Golub wrote in an email. “All of these diseases result in an increase in collagenase.”

A challenge in treating periodontitis is that the enzyme that is a part of the inflammatory response, collagenase, is present, and necessary, in normal metabolism. Ridding the body of the enzyme would cause harm. Golub worked with Francis Johnson, a professor of chemistry and pharmacological sciences at Stony Brook, to develop a new treatment using a modified form of curcumin, which is a bright yellow chemical that is a member of the ginger family. Naturally occurring curcumin does provide some benefit for periodontal diseases, Golub said, although the modified version Johnson helped create is more effective. “Very little” curcumin is absorbed from the gut into the blood stream after oral administration, Golub said.

The modification Johnson and Golub made was to make their variant triketonic. With the extra ketone, which has a negative charge, the attraction for zinc and calcium, which are a part of collagenase and have positive charges, is stronger, Golub said.

In dividing the work, Gu explained that Golub will supervise personnel, coordinate and oversee all experiments and provide technical oversight for the animal experiments and biochemical analysis. Gu will work with Hsi-Ming Lee, a research assistant professor in oral biology and pathology, to perform in vivo animal experiments and the biochemical analyses of pro-inflammatory mediator levels on blood, gingival fluid and gingival tissue samples. He and Golub will perform data analysis and prepare publications together. The scientific team involved in the study of TRB-NO224, which includes Maria Ryan, the chair of the Department of Oral Biology and Pathology, intends to develop this treatment for pets first. This, Golub suggested, was in part because the approval process for pet treatments is quicker to market.

The group hopes additional research, including safety and efficacy studies, will lead them to apply to the Food and Drug Administration for human uses. Ryan, who worked as a graduate student in Golub’s lab before she became the head of the department, is pleased with the process and the track record of a department Golub helped start in 1973.

“I am proud to say that this is Department of Oral Biology and Pathology’s fourth NIDCR grant for the development of new therapeutics for the management of periodontal diseases within the past four years,” Ryan wrote in an email. “The aim of this funding mechanism is to move these novel compounds further along in the FDA drug development process.” Ryan added that the benefits of TRB-NO224 extended to other medical arenas and has led to collaborations with additional scientists. TRB-NO224 not only impacts enzymes such as collagenase, but also affects pro-inflammatory mediators, she said.

“This new compound may be useful at preventing and/or treating numerous chronic conditions,” Ryan said. Studies are currently funded to investigate indications for osteoarthritis with the director of Orthopaedic Research, Daniel Grande, at the Feinstein Institute and for acute respiratory distress syndrome with Gary Nieman at SUNY Upstate Medical University in Syracuse. Golub has worked with international collaborators for decades. Some of them praised his legacy and the work he’s continuing to do.

Golub’s patents reflect his “everlasting translational mission from molecular and biotechnological medical/dental research to doctors’ daily and every-day practice,” wrote Timo Sorsa, the Chief Dental Officer in Periodontology at the University of Helsinki Central Hospital in Finland in an email. Golub received an honorary M.D. from the University of Helsinki in 2000.

A resident of Smithtown, Golub lives with his wife Bonny, who is a travel agent. They have two children, Marlo and Michael, and four grandchildren. Golub and his wife were among the first to see a showing at the New Community Cinema in Huntington, now the Cinema Arts Centre, in their own folding chairs. They watched one of Golub’s favorite films, “Henry V,” with Sir Laurence Olivier.

Golub is optimistic about the prospects and progress on TRB-NO224. “We are beginning to see evidence of efficacy in a variety of diseases,” he offered. He also believes the treatment may have rapid acceptance because natural curcumin has been used for decades in a number of populations and is “believed to be safe and effective.”

The content in this version has been updated from the original.

Children practice weaving at a previous SeaFaire event. Photo courtesy of Whaling Museum of Cold Spring Harbor

By Rita J. Egan

Staff members of the The Whaling Museum & Education Center in Cold Spring Harbor have been behind closed doors since early September working on a number of exciting new projects. On Oct. 2, the doors will open once again as the museum hosts their annual SeaFaire celebration and launches the museum’s brand new permanent exhibit, Thar She Blows!

Celebrating Long Island’s maritime heritage, SeaFaire features craftspeople demonstrating felting and needle punching, rug hooking, calligraphy, weaving, and there will be a silversmith and jewelry maker on hand, too. Visitors will also be able to participate in carving scrimshaw, building a model sailboat and creating a candle of their very own, according to Judy Palumbo, community relations and development manager.

At last year’s event, Palumbo said it was wonderful to see children forgetting their electronics and marveling at artisans. She said one group of little girls spread their blanket out and just watched one woman weaving. “They were mesmerized,” she said. She said the staff is excited about the event as well as the debut of Thar She Blows!, which will bring many of the artifacts that visitors have seen in the past at the museum together in a cohesive story.

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A child enjoys weaving at last year’s event. Photo courtesy of Whaling Museum of Long Island

Nomi Dayan, executive director, said the exhibit stems from her research while writing the Images of America book, “Whaling on Long Island,” released in the beginning of this year. The executive director said the exhibit features a painted mural depicting the cross-section of a whaling boat. In addition to the mural, museumgoers will find maritime-inspired activities, artifacts mounted to the wall and informational panels. Dayan said the hope is that visitors will connect to Long Island’s whaling history.

“It was difficult putting it together because Long Island has such a rich whaling heritage. Right after Southampton was established in 1644, whaling companies sprang up,” she said. “To really understand Long Island is to understand how whaling affected it. So it was difficult trying to boil down this story onto just a couple of walls.” Dayan added that while the museum’s former standing exhibit focused on Cold Spring Harbor’s contribution to whaling, the new one takes an expanded look at Long Island’s involvement in the industry as a whole.

According to Dayan, visitors will find a light-up map featuring local former ports and a recruitment station where guests will be able to ask each other questions to see if they would have been qualified to be a whaler, such as, “Can you eat food with cockroaches in it?” Museum guests will find a scent box where they will be able to smell what cooking blubber and a fo’c’sle smelled like. A fo’c’sle, which is short for forecastle, was the part of the ship where the bottom-ranking whalers slept in cramped bunk beds in filth and grime, a scent that Dayan pointed out will reinforce to the learners what issues whalers faced.

The executive director said visitors will find more fresh additions to the museum including lifesize cardboard cutouts throughout the museum. The new collection enables visitors to learn more about the various personalities that made up the whaling industry, from the rich captain who built a mansion out east to a lowly greenhand, according to Dayan.

“We wanted to show the diverse range of cultures and backgrounds of people who made up the industry. So, that’s something else fresh that people can anticipate,” she said. Dayan said the goal of an event such as SeaFaire as well as the new exhibit is for visitors to come away with a deeper understanding of local maritime heritage. “We want our history to be a foundation for the future. Hopefully the crafts making and fun of it will open people’s eyes to the tremendous story here.”

The Whaling Museum & Education Center, 301 Main Street, Cold Spring Harbor, hosts SeaFaire on Sunday, Oct. 2 from noon to 3 p.m., rain or shine. Admission is $6 for adults, $5 for seniors and children. Some activities require an extra fee. For more information, call 631-367-3418 or visit www.cshwhalingmuseum.org.

Above, from left, Elizabeth Malafi and Marlene Gonzalez of the Middle Country Public Library; Bebe Federmann, Mari Irizarry and Dawn Rotolo. Photo from Elizabeth Malafi

By Ellen Barcel

According to the National Association of Women Business Owners, more than 9 million firms in the U.S. are owned by women. Although many of these firms are large, many others are small, run by a single entrepreneur. Many are run by women who find they are able to work from a home office or studio. They are writers, artists, craftspeople, importers, designers and other entrepreneurs, many earning a living while caring for families.

Fifteen years ago, the Middle Country Public Library in Centereach began a tradition that continues to this day — the annual Women’s EXPO — a one-day event where local women entrepreneurs can network with their colleagues, display and sell their work at the library and get the word out about their great products.

At this year’s event, to be held Thursday, Oct. 6, expect 83 vendors, said Elizabeth Malafi, coordinator, Adult Services and the Miller Business Resource Center. Approximately 25 will be new vendors while the rest will be old friends. “It’s sad,” she said, “when some people you really love are no longer at the show, but you know they are succeeding.” Sometimes their business just outgrows the EXPO.

What’s really exciting about the EXPO is the great diversity of entrepreneurs. Shoppers can find everything from jewelry and pottery to beverages, from crocheted items to home goods. The one overriding theme is that the products and services are provided by women. Noted Malafi, the EXPO “is getting bigger and bigger every year.”

During the day, there will be two opportunities to dine. The EXPO Café will be open during lunchtime with food provided and sold by the Fifth Season Café from Port Jefferson. At 4 p.m., visit Sweet Street and Beats. “People can come and purchase snacks and listen to music.”

Malafi emphasized that this “is not just a trade show. We’re here to support women and help them succeed in the business world.” The EXPO, a project of the library’s Miller Business Center, provides workshops to women entrepreneurs throughout the year, helping them to establish their businesses. Here’s a sampling of vendors scheduled to be on site:

Dawn Rotolo

Dawn Rotolo, owner of Dragon’s Nest Baked Goods, fills a very special need. Many consumers find that they are gluten or dairy intolerant, or have other food allergies. Shopping for these specialty items can be challenging and what’s found in the stores either is limited or not as flavorful as the traditional ones. Here’s where Rotolo comes in. Finding out that she herself was gluten intolerant, she decided to fulfill a dream. “I always dreamed of owning my own bakery,” she said. And, that bakery would have foods that people with gluten intolerance could enjoy.

“Everything is gluten free,” but, she didn’t stop there. She went on to develop products that were dairy free, nut free and vegan. Items include a variety of breads (including a “rye style” bread made without rye flour) cupcakes, cookies (even meringue and rainbow), cakes and muffins. She will even take orders for other specialty items. Rotolo has no classical training in baking, but has always loved it. While it was her mother who was a professional cook, her father was the one who frequently asked her to bake. “That’s where my love of baking started. It reminds me of my dad.”

Where did the name Dragon’s Nest come from? “I’ve always loved dragons and I didn’t want a company named after me.” Think of a dragon breathing fire — there’s the oven for the baking. In addition to appearing at the EXPO, Rotolo is at selected farmers markets (check Instagram or Facebook for specifics).

Bebe Federmann

Bebe Federmann of Soul Vessel Designs said that she “stumbled on pottery. I always wanted to take a pottery class.” Then she came across Randy Blume. “I was with her when she was working in her basement” before opening her Hands on Clay studio in East Setauket. Federmann worked for her for a number of years before Blume moved out of the area.

She noted, “There hasn’t been anything to replace it.” Federmann went on, “I was then in the corporate world until four years ago … but never gave up [on pottery making], doing it as a hobby.” But then she wanted to go back to her pottery studio full time. Where does the name of her business Soul Vessel Designs come from? “I put my heart and soul into what I make.” She noted, “With clay, possibilities are endless.” Her pottery is primarily tableware, mugs, bowls, pitchers, vases, etc. “They are functional art, designed to be used every day, very long lasting.” She added, “and planters. I’ve done a lot of those lately.” Her color palette is primarily neutral, with “a lot of white, some blues and greens” for decoration.” Federmann added that she also takes special orders. “I do a lot of custom designs, including work for restaurants.”

This will be Federmann’s third year at the EXPO. “It’s one of the best, such a great show.”

Jessica Giovachino

Jessica Giovachino, owner of GioGio Designs
Jessica Giovachino, owner of GioGio Designs

Jessica Giovachino of GioGio Designs is a residential architect by profession. “That’s how I got involved in home goods,” she noted. Sometimes after designing a home, she is asked to design related home goods. Giovachino’s home goods are eco-friendly, made from bamboo. “Bamboo is a sustainable wood.” After being harvested, bamboo can be replanted and regrows quickly. Giovachino joked that when people hear her products are made from bamboo, they quickly say, “You can come to my yard.”

Many of her home products are slotted. “They fit together like a puzzle … candleholders can be taken apart to store,” she said, adding that she wants her products to be not only useful, but fun. For larger products, “I work with a cabinet maker,” to cut the pieces. “I finish them in my studio. Others I cut out with a laser cutter. Because I’m an architect I’m used to designing on the computer … then send the file to my laser cutter.” After the pieces are cut she does all the finishing. In addition, “I do a whole line of jewelry as well. All the jewelry is laser cut from wood, stainless steel and leather,” she said.

Giovachino has been involved in designing home goods and jewelry for three years — “starting my fourth year.” However, this is her first year at the Women’s EXPO. “A friend does catering for the event. She told me about it … it looked great, really exciting.” In addition to the EXPO, she and her work can be found at local craft shows, but “I’m moving to wholesale, getting crafts in boutiques.”

Alaila Lee

Alaila Lee, owner of Clovesz
Alaila Lee, owner of Clovesz

Alaila Lee, owner of Clovesz, may be the youngest vendor at the EXPO. “I’m just 21,” she said. After graduating from Bay Shore High School, Lee went to the Culinary Academy of Long Island in Syosset. Then she “started selling hibiscus flower drinks [Sorrel]. They’re representative of my culture — Jamaican,” using a family recipe. The beverages come in several flavors, including pineapple and mango and can be “served hot or cold, still or sparking.” The drinks are sold in really unique bottles. When she was looking for a unique shape, she found that many shapes and designs were on the shelf already with other products. “I looked around and saw a light bulb,” and so the light bulb bottle came into existence. Lee markets primarily through expos and farmers markets but “I would like to expand in the culinary world.”

Products she is considering include tea bags and other beverages. Since so many of these vendors have items that make great holiday presents, this is a wonderful opportunity to start your shopping in a relaxed and fun atmosphere, knowing that you are helping the local economy.

Mari Irizarry

Mari Irizarry of Hook and Wool is one of the vendors presenting her work at the Women’s EXPO for the first time. Irizarry is from Brooklyn and moved to Long Island two years ago. “I was a graphic designer and marketing director” in Brooklyn, said Irizarry. “When I moved here I left that job and made more time” for her handmade items.

“As a kid growing up in Brooklyn, times were occasionally tough and we moved around a lot … Looking back, a lot of the things we had, that outlasted apartments we lived in, were handmade. Not only were they made with someone’s energy and love, but they were high quality — truly pieces of art. One of the only material things I have from childhood is a hand-crocheted Christmas stocking that our neighbor, Mrs. Genovich, made for me,” she said.

Irizarry learned crocheting, sewing and knitting from her mother, who learned from her mother. “I didn’t do much as a child,” she added but “it was 1999 and I was broke. I had a lot of family and friends I wanted to give holiday presents to … so I got to stitching.” She added that some of those items are still being worn today. Irizarry’s wool and acrylic items are handmade by her and include scarves, hats and blankets. She noted, “I’m at my happiest when I’m creating something to share and enjoy with loved ones.” Speaking of next Thursday’s event, she said, “I’m really looking forward to it. It’s so exciting to be invited to the EXPO.”

The annual Women’s EXPO will take place on Thursday, Oct. 6, from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. the Middle Country Public Library, 101 Eastwood Boulevard, Centereach. Admission is free and there is ample parking. For further information, call the library at 631-585-9393 or go to www.womensexpoli.org.

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Adult Coloring Contest

We have a winner!

Karin Bagan of Setauket is the winner of our latest adult coloring contest! Karin’s intricate nautical-themed graphic was chosen over many other entries, and she wins a three-year subscription to Times Beacon Record Newspapers. Congratulations and thank you to all who entered!

Enter to win! Why should kids have all the fun? Color in this image by Karin Bagan of Setauket and enter to win a three-year subscription to the Times Beacon Record (a $99 value). Mail your winning entry to Times Beacon Record Newspapers, P.O. Box 707, Setauket, NY 11733 or email a high-resolution image to leisure@tbrnewspapers.com. Deadline to enter is Oct. 15. Contest open to ages 21 and older. The winner will be announced in the issue of Oct. 20. Questions? Call 631-751-7744, ext. 109.

Kicking off last year's Paint Port Pink with a ceremony at Port Jefferson Village Hall. Photo courtesy of Mather Hospital

 

 

Village to raise awareness about breast cancer and breast health

Phountain on East Main Street in Port Jefferson was awash in pink during last year’s Paint Port Pink. Photo courtesy of Mather Hospital
Phountain on East Main Street in Port Jefferson was awash in pink during last year’s Paint Port Pink. Photo courtesy of Mather Hospital

Paint Port Pink, John T. Mather Memorial Hospital’s month-long breast cancer awareness community outreach, returns in October with new events, initiatives and community partners.

A tree lighting ceremony in front of Village Hall Sept. 28 kicked off the event. Presented by Astoria Bank, the event’s mission is to stress the importance of screening, early detection and education about breast cancer and to help raise funds for the Fortunato Breast Health Center Fund for the Uninsured at Mather.

The Village of Port Jefferson will be all aglow as more than 80 storefronts will be decorated in mini pink lights and pink banners. Local schools will hold fundraisers and restaurants will offer pink drinks.

Pink lights shine bright on Theatre Three’s marquis at last year’s event. Photo by Heidi Sutton

This year’s outreach will also include an art show at the Port Jefferson Free Library from Oct. 1 to 31, the 10th annual Pink Rock Golf Classic at the Baiting Hollow Golf Club on Oct. 3. Mather Hospital’s 51st annual Gala, One Enchanted Evening: A Night of Entertainment featuring the Edwards Twins, will be held on Oct. 14 at East Wind Caterers in Wading River at 7 p.m. The gala will include the presentation of the Community Service Award and Theodore Roosevelt Awards for service to the hospital and the community. The month-long event will conclude with Mather Hospital’s free educational health and wellness HealthyU seminar series and health fair on Saturday, Oct. 29 at 9 a.m.

Paint Port Pink is sponsored by Long Island Physician Associates, LI Anesthesia Physicians, Long Island Bone and Joint, People’s United Bank, Empire Bank, North Shore Hematology Oncology Associates, C.Tech Collections, Peconic Auto Wreckers and The Pie with the cooperation of the Village of Port Jefferson, the Port Jefferson School District, Greater Port Jefferson Chamber of Commerce and other local groups.

Diane Towers with her photograph, ‘Light My Way’. Photo courtesy of Mather Hospital
Diane Towers with her photograph, ‘Light My Way’. Photo courtesy of Mather Hospital

A story of survival

The photograph is one of light and serenity, of calm waters and clouds and a bridge between darkness and light. It is a perfect metaphor for what Diane Towers was feeling when she captured the scene in Ocean City, Maryland following her final treatment for breast cancer.

“To me, getting through it meant seeing something good every day, that there’s beauty all around you and every sunset is something you appreciate more and more,” said Towers, a Mount Sinai resident who was diagnosed with breast cancer seven years ago. “It was my first vacation after I had done chemo and I had my bald head and reconstructed body and we went away to Maryland. That picture was taken right outside our hotel room and the lights had just come on and it was just breathtaking to me. I was coming out of a dark time and seeing the light.”

Towers, a 28-year employee of John T. Mather Memorial Hospital, had discovered a lump in one of her breasts through self-examination. “It was a total shock,” she said, adding that there was no family history of breast cancer. She went to the Fortunato Breast Health Center at Mather and had a mammography and an ultrasound, but the results of both tests were negative, she said. Working with her doctor there, she had a biopsy taken and the cancer diagnosis was confirmed, she said.

“One of the things that came out of the experience for me is don’t put all your trust in technology. You have to be diligent. You are your best advocate for your health. You know your body,” she said.

After consulting with Drs. Joseph Carrucciu and Michelle Price at Fortunato, Towers elected to have a bilateral mastectomy, followed by chemotherapy and reconstructive surgery. “They were wonderful advocates and just guided me,” she said. “I have to say the people at this hospital got me through this. They were amazing from the secretary when you first walked in to people in the lab. The compassion that comes out of people when you go through something like this really is amazing.”

“Here I am seven years later, finished with everything and in total remission,” Towers said. “I’ve had two children married and three grandbabies on the way and a lot of beautiful things have happened. So there is life after cancer.”

Towers entered her photo, “Light My Way,” in the Paint Port Pink’s art show. “It’s A Good Day,” at Port Jefferson Free Library. An art exhibit reception will take place on Wednesday, Oct. 5 at 6 p.m., with viewing of the exhibit open to the public during normal library hours through Oct. 31. Artwork may be purchased for $50 per piece at the reception. After Oct. 5, please call Mather Hospital’s Public Affairs Office at 631-476-2723 if you would like to purchase a piece. Art work will be sold on a first-come, first-served basis.

For a complete list of Paint Port Pink events, partners and sponsors and to see all the entries in the art show, visit www.paintportpink.org.

Blast from the Past: Do you know when and where this photo was taken? What are these two men talking about? Email your answers to info@wmho.org. To see more wonderful vintage photographs like this, visit The Ward Melville Heritage Organization’s ongoing exhibit, It Takes a Team to Build a Village, at The WMHO’s Educational & Cultural Center, 97P Main Street, Stony Brook. For more information, call 631-751-2244.

Answer to last week’s Throwback Thursday:

Mr. and Mrs. Joseph L. Merrill of Locust Valley (foreground), and Mr. and Mrs. Ward Melville of Stony Brook share a box at the 67th National Horse Show at Madison Square Garden on November 1, 1955. Newsday/Tom Maguire

Mr. and Mrs. Joseph L. Merrill of Locust Valley (foreground), and Mr. and Mrs. Ward Melville of Stony Brook share a box at the 67th National Horse Show at Madison Square Garden on November 1, 1955.
Newsday/Tom Maguire

 

A great horned owl at Sweetbriar Nature Center

Sweetbriar Nature Center, 62 Eckernkamp Drive, Smithtown will hold a yard sale on Oct. 29 and 30 from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. to support its mission of nature education and wildlife rehabilitation. Donations of household goods, collectibles, antiques and small pieces of furniture are requested — with nothing more than 40 pounds. No clothing, books or baby items please. All proceeds go to caring for their animals.

To drop off items or to arrange a pick up, call Joe at 631-905-5911 or Eric at 631-979-6344, ext. 302.

The cover of Cindy Sommer's new children's book. Photo courtesy of Cindy Sommer

By Heidi Sutton

Just in time for fall, Stony Brook resident Cindy Sommer has released her first children’s book, “Saving Kate’s Flowers” (Arbordale Publishing). Recommended for ages 3 to 8, the 32-page picture book, with gorgeous illustrations by Laurie Allen Klein, follows little Kate the rabbit in her quest to save the flowers in her family’s garden from dying at the end of the summer. After her mother teaches her about perennials, annuals and how to save seeds, Kate asks to bring the annuals inside. Unfortunately, Kate’s father is allergic to flowers! Will Kate find homes for all the flowers before the cold weather sets in?

As an added bonus, the book also includes educational resources in the back to learn more about the parts of a plant, the life cycle of plants and how to pot and identify flowers. Sommer recently took time out from preparing for a book signing and reading at the Suffolk County Farm in Yaphank on Oct. 1 to answer a few questions about her adorable new book.

Above, the author with her dog Pepper, a mini Australian shepherd. Photo courtesy of Cindy Sommer
Above, the author with her dog Pepper, a mini Australian shepherd. Photo courtesy of Cindy Sommer

Can you give a little background about yourself?

I have lived in Stony Brook all my life. I attended Three Village schools and graduated from Ward Melville High School. I then graduated from SUNY Oneonta with a BA in English. I’ve always been interested in reading and writing, particularly horse books. Once I had my two daughters, I found some time to finally write.

What was your favorite book as a child?

All the Black Stallion and Marguerite Henry books. I think I had them all. Why did you decide to write this children’s book? When my daughter, Samantha, was young, she asked me “Why do flowers die in winter?” and I thought that was a very good question. I wanted to give her a simple answer, but there was no easy way. So I wrote this story. Kate is actually Samantha.

Do you have a garden at home?

Yes, I have a big backyard but a small vegetable garden. I grow some cucumbers, tomatoes and basil. I have lots of flowers … I love flowers. I love anything that blooms for most of the summer; Stella d’oro lilies, hydrangeas and dianthus.

Do you have any rabbits in your yard?

Every year we have rabbits in our yard. This year there seemed to be a lot! I think they knew my book was coming out.

Will there be more adventures with Kate in the future?

There are plans for a sequel. I don’t want to give it away, but it might involve snow. Hopefully, there will be many more adventures.

You are a member of the Long Island Children’s Writers and Illustrators. Can you tell us a little about the group?

A local librarian told me about LICWI when I first started writing. I was so nervous the first time I went to a meeting, I didn’t go in! I found that they are a wonderful encouraging group, willing to help out any writer, beginner or experienced. I learn new things every time I go to a meeting. But they will tell you the truth in a constructive way. If you can’t take criticism, you should not join a writer’s group. It has made my writing stronger, and I appreciate all of their opinions and great advice.

We meet every second Saturday a month during the school year at St. Joseph’s College in Patchogue. We usually have a break over the summer with a garden party. For more information, you can see visit their website: www.licwi.com.

What advice would you give to someone who is writing their first book?

Read the genre for the type of book you want to write. I have read hundreds of picture books. Get to know the structure, the language and the pacing. Join a local writer’s group and the SCBWI (Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators). Try to go to writing conferences. I used to go to Hofstra when they had their conferences. Sadly they no longer have them. I looked forward to meeting editors and going to workshops. SCBWI has started offering some writing events at the Huntington Public Library, and they hold many in NYC. Wait for your story to be the absolute best it can be before you send it out anywhere. And write because you love to write. Most authors do not make much money in real life.

Why do you think reading to a young child is so important?

Reading is something they will be doing for the rest of their lives, so it’s something that should be encouraged from the very start. If they are given good basics and a love of books at an early age, they will have the tools they need to accomplish whatever they want to in life.

Tell me about the book signing event on Oct. 3.

I will be in the Children’s Garden at the Suffolk County Farm and Education Center in Yaphank on Oct. 3 at 1 p.m. during the farm’s PumpkinFest, with a rain date of Oct. 4. I will probably read my book at 1:30 p.m. with signings followed by a flower-themed craft available until around 3:30 p.m.

Any more book signings in the works?

Since this is my first book, I am eager to get started. I am doing a presentation for a girls’ book club soon. My schedule is open for presentations in elementary schools. My program is registered through Eastern Suffolk and Nassau BOCES. I would love to do a reading and craft storytime for libraries and bookstores.

savingflowers_pic3“Saving Kate’s Flowers” is available at www.Amazon.com, the publisher’s website at www.arbordalepublishing.com and www.barnesandnoble.com. For more information about the author, visit www.cindysommer.com.

Please note that this article has been updated:

The PumpkinFest in Yaphank has been rescheduled to Oct. 3 and 4. 

From left, Steven Uihlein, Jessica Contino, Melanie Acampora and Emily Gates star in 'Pumpkin Patch Magic'. Photo by Peter Lanscombe, Theatre Three Productions, Inc.

By Melissa Arnold

Twenty years ago, Theatre Three’s Artistic Director Jeffrey Sanzel wrote a Halloween play for children with sweet, goofy characters and an encouraging moral lesson. This October, the Port Jefferson theater will present an updated version of Sanzel’s original show, “Pumpkin Patch Magic,” featuring all-new music and lyrics by Jules Cohen. I sat down with Sanzel and Cohen to learn more about bringing the show to life again.

Jeffrey Sanzel has written or adapted more than 100 plays in his 28 years at Theatre Three.

What inspired you to write this play?

Jeff Sanzel: This goes back many years. We’ve actually done “Pumpkin Patch Magic” twice, with the original performances happening 20 years ago. (My writing partner and I) were looking for a new Halloween show and decided we wanted the theme to be based around the saying, “If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again.” We always want to have a moral underpinning for our stories. So we created this world of Halloween with all the characters you’d expect — witches, ghosts, gnomes — and their different skills and limitations. For example, there’s a witch who can fly and a witch who can’t. It’s very funny.

How do you go about developing a show like this?

We talk about a theme, and then work on characters. I usually sit down and think about the sort of direction I want the story to go in, and from there I’ll start writing … there are usually 15 to 20 pages that never make it into the show — it’s just about getting the ideas going. If we’re doing an adaptation, I’ll read as many different versions of the story as I can to help flesh out how I want to tell it and what kind of message we want to convey.

From left, Princess Pumpkin (Melanie Acampora) Ermengarde Broomwellsweepalot the Witch (Emily Gates) and Norman the Nervous Gnome (Steve Uihlein) star in ‘Pumpkin Patch Magic. Photo by Peter Lanscombe, Theater Three Productions, Inc.
From left, Princess Pumpkin (Melanie Acampora) Ermengarde Broomwellsweepalot the Witch (Emily Gates) and Norman the Nervous Gnome (Steve Uihlein) star in ‘Pumpkin Patch Magic. Photo by Peter Lanscombe, Theater Three Productions, Inc.

Can you summarize the story?

These characters are the ones who are responsible for getting pumpkins into the pumpkin patches all over the world. There are two groups involved: the overachievers and the underachievers. Some of the characters are limited in what they can do, and they’re always being reminded of how they can’t do as much as others. The story is told by a fairy, Loquacious Chattalot, who tries to encourage them, but it backfires and they give up. But in the end, it’s the limited ones who end up making it all happen successfully.

How did you come up with the name Fairy Loquacious Chattalot?

I’m a big fan of Charles Dickens — we do “A Christmas Carol” here at Theatre Three every year — and Dickens-style names always tend to stick in my head. The characters’ names really reflect who they are, and that is definitely true for this fairy. She’s a very nonstop talker, and that’s where I got Loquacious Chattalot.

For what age group is this play recommended? I would say it’s best for ages 3 and up.

It’s very entertaining, fast and colorful. It’s not scary at all — in fact, it’s very silly. The humor is very goofy, and the show is extremely family-friendly. All of our children’s shows are meant for the whole family to be entertained.

Are children encouraged to come dressed in their Halloween costumes?

Absolutely! We love when the kids show up in costume; it’s so much fun. And if you stay after the show, the characters will come out [in the lobby] to meet the kids and have their picture taken.

Why should parents bring their kids to see the show?

Children’s theater is the greatest way to introduce kids to theater, and the earlier on they’re exposed to it, the more they can develop an appreciation for it. Seasonal shows like this one are a lot of fun and the message for this show is so important — keep trying. You can learn, you can make a difference and there’s nothing you can’t do.

Jules Cohen has written music for dozens of shows all over the country, but now he fights breast cancer as an oncologist at Stony Brook University Hospital.

Are you a native Long Islander?

Jules Cohen: I grew up in Poughkeepsie, and after college I lived in Manhattan for 20 years. I moved to Suffolk County six years ago to work at Stony Brook.

Composer Jules Cohen, center, with the cast of 'Pumpkin Patch Magic' at Theatre Three. Photo by Peter Lanscombe, Theatre Three Productions, Inc.
Composer Jules Cohen, center, with the cast of ‘Pumpkin Patch Magic’ at Theatre Three. Photo by Peter Lanscombe, Theatre Three Productions, Inc.

You studied music in college, but now you’re an oncologist. What led to that change?

I have a bachelor’s degree in music and a master’s in music composition. I hoped to make my career as a musical director in theatre and a songwriter, and I did that for several years working with several reasonably high-profile directors. But it’s difficult to make a living in those fields, as you never know where your next job will come from. I had to move all over the country — I’ve worked in Vermont; San Francisco; Louisville, Kentucky; and in New York City. I knew that if I wanted a more stable life, I needed a more structured day job. Music and theater could always remain a hobby while I did other work. My initial thought was to become a psychologist, so I went to medical school, and once I got there I found I really gravitated more toward medical oncology.

Was the transition difficult for you?

Once I decided to go to med school, I pursued it wholeheartedly and didn’t find leaving the music and theater career difficult. I’ve always played the piano and am working on jazz piano now. That satisfies the musical part of my brain.

What inspired you to get involved with composing for ‘Pumpkin Patch Magic’?

I have two young children — a 5-year-old and a 10-year-old. I’ve always taken them to basically every show at Theatre Three, and it got to the point where the actors all knew Emma and Oscar. They really watched them grow. I decided to see if I could get involved, and I met Jeff in the lobby one day. He suggested I collaborate with him on one of his kids’ shows, and a few weeks later he emailed me the script for a Halloween show he had written years ago. From there I worked on updating the score, one song at a time. My kids love Halloween, so they’re very excited, and my daughter is very into musical theater — she loves to give her input.

What’s involved with writing a song? What is the process like?

Writing lyrics was relatively new for me, but I really enjoyed spending time working on the rhyme and wordplay. That process develops a sense of rhythm, and from there I start thinking about pitches. You flesh it out a bit at a time, eventually developing chords and a melody line, then adding little embellishments and intricacies. It’s really not magic or anything — as they say, it’s 10 percent inspiration and 90 percent perspiration.

How would you describe the music for the show?

It’s definitely heavily influenced by jazz, and the whole score is written for keyboard. Who are your musical influences? I really enjoy musicians in both jazz and theater, and the intersection between them — George Gershwin, Cole Porter, Frank Lesser, Thelonious Monk, and Charlie Parker are some of my favorites.

What are you most looking forward to about the show?

I’m very excited to hear my songs performed by real actors and singers, to see them come to life onstage. I’m hoping that people will appreciate it and that they leave tapping their feet. I know that I’m pleased with the songs — they are fun and clever.

“Pumpkin Patch Magic” or “If At First You Don’t Succeed” will run from Oct. 1 through Oct. 29 on Saturdays and Sundays at Theatre Three, 412 Main St., Port Jefferson. All seats are $10. For more information or to purchase tickets, call (631) 928-9100 or visit www.theatrethree.com.

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